Pay-as-you-go broadband - what can I get?

pay as you go broadband

Several years ago, you could use the internet on a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) basis - paying by the megabyte for what you use. But these days, that’s been abandoned in favour of fixed broadband that comes with a ready-set usage limit or no limit at all.

Nonetheless, if PAYG broadband sounds like it's up your street - either because you don't go online much, or because you don't want the commitment of a contract - there are still a few options available. Here's the lowdown, and how to find a deal that suits you.

No-contract, 30-day broadband

If it's temporary internet without the commitment you want, take a look at no-contract broadband. Instead of the usual 12-month or 18-month contracts, some broadband packages are available on just a 30-day basis - so you can stop, start, or cancel it whenever you like.

It tends to be fixed-line, meaning it's more reliable than mobile broadband (more on that later) while also offering affordable prices, and, best of all, unlimited usage. The only downside is that it costs a little more per month than broadband on a longer contract.

Virgin Media

Everything Virgin Media has to offer - broadband, home phone, and even TV - is available on a 30-day rolling basis. That includes its ultra speedy broadband (with average download speeds of 362Mb), and up to 245 channels for your telly.

Best buy deals
  • Vivid 50 Fibre Broadband
    No Phone Line Required!
    • Average speed* 54Mbps
    • £20.00 up-front costs
    • £35.00 per month
    12 month contract
  • Vivid 50 Fibre Broadband + Talk Weekends
    Unlimited downloads!
    • Average speed* 54Mbps
    • Weekend calls inc.
    • Offer ends
    • £27.00 per month
    12 month contract
  • Player TV Bundle
    V6 TiVo Box
    • Average speed* 54Mbps
    • Weekend calls inc.
    • Offer ends
    • £32.00 per month
    12 month contract
  • Vivid 100 Fibre Broadband + Talk Weekends
    Unlimited Downloads
    • Online Exclusive
    • Average speed* 108Mbps
    • Weekend calls inc.
    • Offer ends
    • £29.00 per month
    12 month contract
  • Mix TV Bundle
    V6 TiVo Box
    • Average speed* 108Mbps
    • Weekend calls inc.
    • Offer ends
    • £47.00 per month
    12 month contract
  • Full House TV Bundle
    V6 TiVo Box
    • Average speed* 108Mbps
    • Weekend calls inc.
    • Offer ends
    • £57.00 per month
    12 month contract

*Average speeds are based on the download speeds of at least 50% of customers at peak time (8pm to 10pm). Speed can be affected by a range of technical and environmental factors. The speed you receive where you live may be lower than that listed above. You can check the estimated speed to your property prior to purchasing.

NOW Broadband

All of NOW Broadband's packages are available on 30-day contracts too, including fibre broadband packages with average speeds of 36Mb and 58Mb, and all have unlimited downloads. Plus, you can add on a TV Pass at any time to get premium TV channels, Sky Cinema, or Sky Sports.

Best buy deals
  • Brilliant Broadband
    £50 Gift Card
    • Exclusive
    • Average speed* 11Mbps
    • £9.99 up-front costs
    • Pay as you go phone
    • Offer ends
    • £15.00 per month
    12 month contract
  • Fab Fibre
    £50 Gift Card
    • Exclusive
    • Average speed* 36Mbps
    • £9.99 up-front costs
    • Pay as you go phone
    • Offer ends
    • £20.00 per month
    12 month contract
  • Super Fibre
    £50 Gift Card
    • Exclusive
    • Average speed* 63Mbps
    • £9.99 up-front costs
    • Pay as you go phone
    • Offer ends
    • £30.00 per month
    12 month contract

*Average speeds are based on the download speeds of at least 50% of customers at peak time (8pm to 10pm). Speed can be affected by a range of technical and environmental factors. The speed you receive where you live may be lower than that listed above. You can check the estimated speed to your property prior to purchasing.

Cheap broadband with a usage limit

If the main reason you're looking at pay-as-you-go broadband is because you don't use the internet very much, you may be better off signing up to a basic cheap internet package. These usually give you an ADSL connection (i.e. not fibre optic), sometimes have a usage limit of 25GB or so, and come at very, very low prices. We're talking only a couple of pounds on top of the price of your line rental - or sometimes nothing at all.

It's just enough to ensure that you have internet in your home when you need it, but barely costs a thing.

You'll find broadband offers like this from providers like Sky, TalkTalk, Plusnet, EE, and more. We say it's well worth switching your phone provider just to cash in on low-cost internet.

Best buy deals
  • Broadband + weekend calls
    £40 BT Reward Card - see BT's website for further details
    • Online Exclusive
    • Average speed* 10Mbps
    • £19.99 up-front costs
    • Weekend calls inc.
    • Offer ends
    • £24.99 per month
    18 month contract
  • Broadband Unlimited
    £100 Prepaid MasterCard®
    • Average speed* 11Mbps
    • £9.95 up-front costs
    • Pay as you go phone
    • Offer ends
    • £18.00 per month
    12 month contract
  • Unlimited Broadband
    £50 Plusnet Reward Card
    • Online Exclusive
    • Average speed* 10Mbps
    • Pay as you go phone
    • Offer ends
    • £19.99 per month
    18 month contract
  • Unlimited Broadband + Weekend Calls
    Unlimited Broadband
    • Online Exclusive
    • Average speed* 11Mbps
    • Weekend calls inc.
    • Offer ends
    • £17.00 per month
    12 month contract
  • Unlimited Broadband
    5GB data boost!
    • Average speed* 10Mbps
    • £10.00 up-front costs
    • Pay as you go phone
    • £20.00 per month
    18 month contract
  • Fast Broadband
    No Price Rises!
    • Average speed* 11Mbps
    • £9.95 up-front costs
    • Pay as you go calls
    • £17.95 per month
    12 month contract

*Average speeds are based on the download speeds of at least 50% of customers at peak time (8pm to 10pm). Speed can be affected by a range of technical and environmental factors. The speed you receive where you live may be lower than that listed above. You can check the estimated speed to your property prior to purchasing.

Mobile broadband

For truly pay-as-you-go broadband, your only option - in the UK, at least - is mobile broadband. This works over 4G and 3G, the same as the internet on a smartphone, and can come in the form of a dongle, a personal hotspot device, or a home router. You can also turn your smartphone into a mobile hotspot and connect to that.

Mobile dongle

Mobile broadband is available from most major mobile networks. Some of them offer genuine PAYG mobile broadband, in which you buy a mobile broadband gadget and a SIM card upfront, then top it up and pay for each megabyte you download. However, most prefer you to buy add-ons or 30-day data bundles with a set data allowance you can use. Networks that offer this kind of mobile broadband include:

You can also sign up for a monthly contract. This usually works out much better value than PAYG - especially from a provider like Relish, which gives you unlimited downloads.

The good thing about PAYG mobile broadband is that you really can just pick it up whenever you want, and stop again when you don't need to use the internet for a while. You don't have to sign a contract or be subjected to a credit check either. And being mobile, you can take your hotspot or dongle out and about to get internet wherever you go.

However, it's still not as good value as fixed-line broadband - and because you're relying on 4G it isn't quite as stable or as fast.

  • Why is broadband more expensive in rural areas?

  • What's wireless broadband?

  • Mobile broadband vs fixed line broadband: Which is best for me?

  • How to use public Wi-Fi hotspots

  • Where can I get free broadband?

  • Can I keep my phone number if I change broadband providers?

  • What's wireless broadband?

  • What’s the best broadband for a holiday home?

  • Can I get fibre optic broadband in my area?

  • Can I get fibre optic broadband in my area?

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